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Full text of "NightRider"

226

year, and the fresh odour of the earth came into the room.
Miss Burnham looked perturbedly out over the tumbled
garden, where great brown spikes of weed stalk thrust up
among the rose bushes and the knotted, leafless wistaria
clutched and dragged down the rotted trellises, and out over
the brown fields beyond, and then returned her attention to
the child's head, over which the sunlight spilled. Under that
light the child's long hair was a clear, luminous gold. Sud-
denly Miss Bumham dropped the brush, and plunged her
fingers into the hair, as into a healing stream, and with tears
on her cheeks, cried out: " Oh, sweetheart, sweetheart, 111 be
so good to you. Make me be good to you, always!" Then
she pressed the child to her bosom, and holding her with
one arm, stroked again and again the golden hair, murmur-
ing, "Your hair, it's just the colour of his, his own little
granddaughter; it's gold like his."

The child became her whole life. Gradually, she paid less
and less attention to the operation of the place. The negro
hands and croppers would come up to the house to get direc-
tions or to ask a question, but she would let them stand
around an hour, or two hours, while she bathed the child, or
pressed a ribbon for her, or put ribbons on her hair. The
men would lounge on the back porch, looking off across the
yard or talking in low voices. "Miss Lucy, she shore doan
mind burnen the good Lawd's daylight, she doan, now," they
would say, laughing. After a while she would come out to
them, with an artificial air of briskness and business, and with
a temper that was ready, at the slightest provocation, to break
into a flood of recriminations which they could not understand.

She lost over half of the property. The house, a six-room,
weatherboarded, one-story structure built around an original
dog-run cabin, fell into serious disrepair. Some of the weather-
boarding sagged loose to expose the old logs and chinking
beneath; some of the boards of the front steps rotted out; in
the front rooms, where the roof leaked worst, the plaster fell
off in patches from the ceiling; the last vestiges of paint
disappeared from the exterior. But Miss Burnham, even